Dunstall strolls around the Edinburgh International Book Festival.
a few weeks every year, the literary world comes to Edinburgh for
the International Book Festival.
This August, over 120,000 visitors and 500 authors from five continents
turned up to discuss books, books and more books. Garrison Keillor,
Harold Pinter, Fay Weldon, Alan Bennett, Roddy Doyle, Germaine Greer
and Seamus Heaney all graced the Festival in 2002.
The event centres around a plush tented village in Charlotte Square
Gardens, which from a distance looks like the poshest campsite in
Scotland. You expect to meet the royal family having a picnic. Temporary
wooden boardwalks are laid down to keep everyone off the grass (or,
as it is known in Edinburgh, the mud). For no matter how Olympian
Scotlands rainfall, everything at the Book Festival stays
looking as pristine as the lobby of a five-star hotel. These marquees
are cleaner and tidier than most writers homes.
There is, for example, a bookshop larger than many of the stores on Princes
Street. Enticingly known as the Adult Book Tent, the shop
is unfortunately nowhere near as risqué as it sounds, and actually
just sells the usual range of high street titles. The alluring name merely
serves to set it apart from the Childrens Book Tent
next door. But anyway, inspired by your new copy of the latest John Grisham,
you can then refine your own art in the dedicated writers retreat
area, apparently known as a yurt, where experts are on hand
to offer advice and encouragement to budding authors.
And when the literary day has worn you out, you can relax and get as drunk
as William Faulkner (purely for creative reasons, obviously) in the Spiegeltent
bar which is not really a tent at all, but an old travelling dance
hall, made in Belgium in the 1930s of wood, stained glass, mirrors and
Indeed, despite all the organised talks and book signings, perhaps the
biggest appeal of the Festival is in sitting back, having a drink and
people-watching. Where else can you see a J.R.R. Tolkien addict dressed
as Gandalf discussing press coverage of women in Islam with Mick Jaggers
© Barry Dunstall 2002
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